Such is the obsession with carcinogenic politics that reports Amit Shah would be moving into Atal Bihari’s Vajpayee’s elegant bungalow in Krishna Menon Marg in the heart of Lutyens’ “imperial zone” set the tongues wagging in New Delhi.
Had he been firmly consecrated as No. 2 in the BJP firmament? The speculation was fuelled by the announcement that the home minister and party president had been drafted into a series of key Cabinet committees: and a subsequentlyretracted official statement that Rajnath Singh had been excluded from some of them, including the critical Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
The pundits had a few exciting hours of star-gazing over whether Rajnath was following LK Advani in being “put out to pasture” as the Modi-Shah due increased its stranglehold. Lost in all that noise was the rare, and elevating action of the family of the former prime minister to vacate the prime property within a few months of his passing.
If ever in his political life Atal-ji had adhered to lofty principles, his family underscored them after his death. It is true that a formal decision has been taken not to convert the bungalows of former leaders into “memorials” but there was little to prevent the Vajpayee family from hanging on to the coveted premises for years: and certainly there was no bickering that would have pressured the kin of the revered stalwarts from continuing to stay at 6 Krishna Menon Marg for a longer period.
Their expeditious departure surely enhanced the pristine aura that was admired even by Vajpayee’s political adversaries. The more nagging query is whether the good example will be emulated, the high standard sustained? The New Delhi gang is not reputed to observe such delicacies: under scrutiny will be official accommodation of at least three Cabinet ministers who opted against contesting the recent election ~ all of them had been associated with Vajpayee, will they live up to his family’s benchmark?
To reopen the memorials case would be to descend to name-calling, an assault on the sentiments of the legacy of yesteryear that would not go down well with those accustomed to VIP entitlements: yet are their descendants permitted such luxury in eternity? It is not a mere VIP issue. The Lok Sabha secretariat will soon struggle to find accommodation for newly-elected members ~ former members will use every possible ruse to stay in their houses as long as possible.
Such selfishness cuts across party lines. The complexion of Parliament is not static, fixing houses for MPs by their constituencies is not possible, they are touchy about seniority etc. Many ministerial bungalows are also not fixed, as they are for some senior officials. Even in that sphere all are not persons of the class of the last Navy chief, or a former Vice Chief of the IAF. Within hours of “handing over” they set off for their new homes.